On March 11th, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Shortly following this alarming announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans keep a 14 day supply of food and other essentials. Not surprisingly, this ignited a mass rush to supermarkets, with people hoarding groceries, sanitary items, and cleaning products. Many stores have been left struggling to keep up with the surge in demand. In one poignant example, sales of dried beans surged by 400 percent as compared to the same week in the previous year.
It’s important to note that America, along with many other countries, has stated there are no concerns about long term food supply. In fact, we have more of a food wastage problem, with an estimated 30 to 40 percent of our food going to waste each year. So there is no need to panic when we see empty shelves. The supply chain simply needs time to catch up.
In the meantime, some resourcefulness and creativity may be required. Now is a time when we are all going to cook more than usual. For people who aren’t comfortable in the kitchen, that can be daunting. Many people are buying online, learning to bake bread, picking up gardening, or looking to new sources for their shopping. Some are even frequenting their old favorite restaurants, which have pivoted to selling the ingredients they would normally use in their kitchen for pick up or delivery in an effort to stay in the black.
Wherever you’re shopping, it’s common to see the popular items out of stock, while certain “undesirable” things tend to be left behind. These ingredients might be different from what you’re used to, but if you know how to use them, then you’re ahead of the crowd. This flexibility can be vital in a survival scenario. It’s also a good opportunity to use up food in our pantries that we were never going to eat. When in doubt, just Google the various ingredients you have plus the word “recipe”, and see what you can find.
We’ve done some of the hard work for you by researching swaps for some of the most common sold-out items. Next time you come across empty shelves, why not see the silver lining. After all, this could be a three-fold opportunity to learn smart survival skills, try out new recipes, and also swap unhealthy ingredients for healthier ones.
Easy Ingredient Swaps To Keep You Cooking
It can be disappointing when you realize you’re all out of that vital ingredient for the recipe you had planned. However, more often than not, you’ll be able to find a replacement that will help you produce something just as delicious. You might even discover a new favorite version of your old tried-and-tested recipes.
Baking Ingredient Swaps
Many people have found bread out of stock and turned to baking their own. You can make a loaf of bread for pennies, compared to the dollars that you’d spend on a fresh loaf. It’s even become popular to post homemade bread, scones, or hot cross buns on social media. However, sometimes key baking ingredients are hard to come by.
We tend to support team #glutenfree here, and we love that GF products are often still in stock when the conventional ones are long gone. If you normally bake with wheat flour, why not swap for gluten-free?
Bakers can also make their own flour at home, as practically any grain, seed, nut or bean can be used to make flour with a blender. You can also choose to opt for the whole version, which scares away those accustomed to buying readymade flour. For whole wheat flour or rye flour, just grind whole wheat or rye berries.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to mess with flour alternatives, why not go flour-free altogether. There are plenty of flourless recipes that use oats and fruit as replacements. These recipes tend to be healthier and are gluten-free friendly.
If you need flour to thicken a soup, sauce, or stew, simply add a few slices of potato or a little bit of rice for starch. If you’re lucky enough to have flour but are out of the self-raising variety, simply add two teaspoons of baking powder to every cup of plain flour.
Yeast has been one ingredient that many people have had trouble finding. People around the world have been taking to social media, complaining about the lack of active dry yeast.
Until the shelves are restocked, people will have to find other non-yeast baking projects, grow their own starter, barter for yeast, or just hold out for more. If you can’t find yeast in stores, you can create a starter with flour and water, and watch it bubble away for a week or so. If you can make a sourdough starter, this can stand in for most recipes calling for yeast.
Replace one teaspoon of baking powder with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Any one of the following can be used in place of each egg in a recipe:
- 1/3 cup of applesauce
- 1/2 pureed banana (1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water
- 1/4 cup of blended silken tofu
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
Running out of sugar is a great opportunity to make your recipes healthier. Try substituting honey or dried fruit in recipes. We would bet the coconut sugar and honey will still be in stock when all the white sugar is gone!
Using cinnamon in desserts also makes them taste sweeter, or try nutmeg or vanilla in baking or coffee for a delicious flavor without the sugar.
Dairy Ingredient Swaps
Although fresh milk is difficult to keep around for any length of time and is often out of stock these days, there are many other great substitutes. Why not coconut milk or almond milk instead. If you’re keen to try something new, you can make nut milk or oat milk at home.
If you’ve got fresh milk but are out of other items, here are some basic conversions to create the dairy product you need for your recipe:
- 1 cup milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup half & half = 1 cup whole milk + 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter, or 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream = 2/3 cup whole milk + 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
If you’re cooking, any oil will do in place of butter; consider avocado oil or coconut oil for some healthy options. For baking, use the same amount of solid coconut oil. And if you only have half the amount of butter you need for baking, you can substitute applesauce for the rest.
Avocado is another great butter stand-in. We know avocado goes well on toast and sandwiches, but did you know it also works well in baking? Simply mash ripe avocado flesh, and use it to replace half the butter in your cakes and muffins. You can swap out all of the butter for avocado if you like, but the results will be flatter and a slightly different texture. Not only will you still be able to make that recipe, but you’ll reduce calories and add lots of nutrients.
You can overcome a lack of sour cream by replacing each cup with a cup of plain Greek yogurt, or try one of these simple combinations:
- 3/4 cup of cream cheese and 3 tablespoons of milk
- 1/3 cup of melted unsalted butter, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
You can also try this recipe for a sour cream replacement, which also happens to be vegan:
In a food processor, blend a handful of cashew nuts, the juice of a lemon, sea salt and a few tablespoons of water until super-smooth. You won’t believe how well it resembles sour cream.
Umami-rich yeast flakes add a depth of flavor reminiscent of parmesan cheese, which you can use as a topping or in sauces.
Dry Goods Swaps
If you’re all out of rice, you can use the following for each cup of uncooked white or brown rice:
- 1 1/4 cups of couscous
- 3/4 cup of barley
- 1 cup of quinoa
- 1 cup of bulgur
- 1 1/3 cups of wheatberries
- 1 1/2 cups of kasha
- 2 cups of orzo pasta
For those who prefer to eat grain-free, cauliflower rice whizzed up in a food processor is a delicious, healthy, low-carb rice replacement.
If your local store is all out of pasta, why not try some of these tasty ideas. Spoon Bolognese sauce onto potato skins or even homemade pizzas, or use thinly sliced eggplant or sweet potato for pasta-free veggie lasagna. Vegetables make a versatile pasta replacement – use a peeler or spiralizer to transform zucchini into a low-carb pasta alternative, or try thinly slicing butternut squash. Spaghetti squash baked in the oven also makes a delicious replacement for pasta.
Fresh Item Swaps
If a recipe calls for fresh produce, it’s usually fine to use dried or canned versions when you need to. For instance, use 1 1/2 cups of canned whole tomatoes or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste for each pound of fresh tomatoes. And remember, frozen fruits and veggies are still good for you, so make sure you’re still getting those 5+ servings a day.
Try substituting meat with tofu or jackfruit, or bulk up a small amount of meat by adding barley, oats, or lentils.
Herbs and Spices
If you’re out of salt, check your pantry. Many seasoning blends and stock cubes already have salt added. Or, add salty ingredients such as olives, capers, or pickles. The brine from canned foods like chickpeas or lentils can also be a good source of salt.
Worcestershire sauce, miso paste, or soy sauce goes a long way toward seasoning a dish, and beer adds a rich depth of flavor to baked dishes such as casseroles.
Replace each clove of fresh garlic with 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt – just make sure to omit 1/2 teaspoon of salt from the recipe. You can also use 1/2 teaspoon of jarred, minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallots.
Substitute vinegar in a recipe with 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice, or 2 teaspoons white wine. Another option is to use the pickling liquid from any pickles or olives.
In savory recipes, replace the wine with an equal amount of chicken or beef stock. In sweet recipes, replace the wine with an equal amount of clear, not from concentrate fruit juice mixed with 2 teaspoons vinegar.
What clever swaps have you figured out in a pinch? Let us know in the comments below!